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Construction part of effort to eliminate trailers

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Kendrick Middle School once overflowed with students.

When the school's capacity was 850, it had nearly 1,500 students during the 2004-2005 school year. There were 20 modular classrooms, or trailers, used to handle the overflow.

Tonight, Kendrick will host the grand opening of a new wing that brings 14 new classrooms to the school and puts its capacity at 1,100 students. The addition is located where modular classrooms once were lined up.

The grand opening is at 5:30 p.m., at 7971 Kendrick Road, Jonesboro.

The new wing is the latest in a series of steps taken by the school district to ease crowding at Kendrick.

The opening of Sequoyah Middle School helped to lower the enrollment at Kendrick to where it is now, 851. However, the new middle school was not enough to rid Kendrick of every modular classroom.

"Modular classrooms can present some challenges in terms of safety and security, but if you've got students, you've got to house them somewhere," said Beverly Garner, the principal at Kendrick Middle School. "With that said, I'm certainly glad to see all of these students learning in one building."

Besides the new classrooms, Kendrick has gotten a 117-seat lecture hall where students can gather for meetings of their grade-level teams. (Students in each grade level are broken up into teams, which allow for smaller class sizes and higher amounts of individualized instruction at each grade level.) The lecture hall also can be used for faculty meetings and staff development.

At the grand opening, dinner will be served, the school's band and chorus will perform. The school's Parent-Teacher-Student Association (PTSA) will hold its monthly meeting after the ceremony. School officials are also using the occasion to promote the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, which are administered in April.

Kendrick wasn't the only school which finished expansion efforts last month.

Jonesboro High School opened a new two-story, 11-classroom wing in late January. The school now has an enrollment capacity of 1,700 students, and its current enrollment is 1,498 pupils.

"This [classroom addition] connects the rear portion of the school and provides better circulation for students," said Ronnie Watts, the school system's director of construction. "It gives Jonesboro's [student] population room to grow."

Watts said 15 schools, or 26 percent of of the 59 schools in Clayton County currently do not have modular classrooms. He said the short list of schools is expected to grow later this year when Mt. Zion Primary School opens its doors.

The primary school, and other classroom additions, will eliminate overcrowding at Mt. Zion, Jackson and R. T. Smith elementary schools.

Watts also said overcrowding is an issue the district has been dealing with for over 20 years, although the situation reached its peak in the late 1990s. There were 600 modular classrooms located at Clayton County schools in 1997, when voters approved the first Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) for school construction. There are now roughly 300 modular classrooms in the county.

"If we can continue to keep pace with the growth in this county, we can get there [no modular classrooms at any Clayton County school]," Watts said.